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28 Killed on Flagler Roads Last Year, Most Since 2008; Total Crashes 2nd-Highest Ever

| January 8, 2015

Olvis Harville of Michigan, a 65-year-old Motorcyclist from Michigan down for Biketoberfest, was one of the 28 people killed on Flagler roads, in this case on U.S. 1 in mid-October. (© FlaglerLive)

Olvis Harville of Michigan, a 65-year-old Motorcyclist from Michigan down for Biketoberfest, was one of the 28 people killed on Flagler roads, in this case on U.S. 1 in mid-October. (© FlaglerLive)

Twenty-eight people were killed on Flagler County roads in 2014, the highest number since 31 people died in 2008, and the third-highest number of fatalities in the county’s history, according to figures released by the Florida Highway Patrol. There were a total of 876 crashes in the county last year, the second-highest tally in the county’s history after 2013’s total of 1,063. In 2013, 16 people were killed.

There are no discernible patterns that explain the spike, nor are fire chiefs or law enforcement officials able empirically to discern one or more traceable reasons for the increase, though a Flagler County Sheriff’s report including an analysis of all the year’s crashes will be released later this month.

“We were talking about this the other day,” Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito said. “We don’t know what it is. It doesn’t seem there’s more cars on the roads, the speed limit is the same, we’re not sure where it’s coming from, and the ages of the victims are spread throughout, so it’s not like it’s a young problem or an old problem.”

The number of accidents has discernibly increased in the last three years, with the total number of crashes registering above 800 each year. That had happened only twice before in the county’s history, ion 2005 and 2006, when the total number of crashes were 805 and 822, still less than the tallies for each of the last three years. That was at the height of Flagler County’s building and population boom, when roads were busy with construction and droves of drivers new to the area.

Flagler County Traffic Crashes and Fatalities, 1990-2014

Total Crashes
Sources: FHP, Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

In the last three years, however, construction has been minimal and the population has increased only fractionally.

There were no mass wrecks either, at least not in Flagler proper. The year’s most serious series of wrecks took place on May 31 when two people–Michael Benjamin Smith, 17, of Jacksonville, and Pamela Taylor Thor, 56, of St. Augustine—were killed in separate vehicles that collided a mile south of the Palm Coast Parkway intersection on I-95. That wreck caused a back-up that stretched all the way to St. Johns County, where, later, four people were killed as a truck plowed into stopped traffic. Two of the four people were from Palm Coast ( Nilda Valentine Rivera, 41, and Kristin J. Ruiz, 25) but those fatalities are not part of the total of 25 for 2014, because they took place in St. Johns.

In all last year, 19 deaths were the result of vehicle wrecks, six were the result of motorcycle wrecks. One pedestrian was killed by a vehicle (on February 14 on I-95, when Patrick Amaral, 32, laid himself in the center lane of the highway in a suicide), one bicyclist was killed and one pilot, Ray Miller, 77, was killed when his experimental plane plummeted into Pellicer Creek waters. FHP includes all plane and train crash fatalities in its annual tally. The 2013 total of 16 deaths, for example, included the three people killed when their plane crashed into a house on Utica Path in Palm Coast.

The FHP tally does not pick up any geographic pattern, either. Only four of the fatal wrecks took place on I-95. The rest were spread throughout the county, though for the most part took place on highways or parkways—U.S. 1, State Road 11, Belle Terre Parkway, Whiteview Parkway, State Road A1A.

Palm Coast city officials several times during the year boasted that the city’s red-light cameras have made city driving safer by changing drivers’ behavior. The claim is not borne out by the numbers, with traffic crashes increasing significantly since the installation of the red-light cameras, even though the cameras were installed just as the Great Recession struck—and when the population boom ended.

FHP’s traffic homicide investigators began noticing the spike last fall and talking about it at wreck scenes, but without being able to point to any causes other than common factors in wrecks, violent or otherwise: alcohol and either distracted or reckless driving.

The tally does include non-typical if not necessarily unheard of types of fatal crashes: aside from the pilot crashing his experimental plane, there was the death of 30-year-old Ronald Glennlewis Evans of Palm Coast in November, in downtown Bunnell, after he evaded a traffic stop and lost control of his car as he sped up State Street. There was the death in mid-December of 77-year-old Shirley Nethery of Beverly Beach after she mistakenly took a boat ramp for the continuation of a road in a very dark side-road in the Hammock. Dewey B. Thompson, a 49-year-old resident of Bunnell, was killed after he passed out at the wheel of his car, which crashed behind the branch library in Bunnell in June. Similarly, Henry Cornish, 71, had just left a doctor’s office when he lost consciousness as he drove through Town Center and died after his car crashed through brush and woods and caught fire in February.

No discernible pattern, but distracted driving draws the most blame.

“I know we’ve had some serious accidents on the internal streets, and I think they’re residents, they’re not people on vacation or visiting, so you can’t say people don’t know the roadways,” Palm Coast Fire Chief Mike Beadle said. He too could not point to a pattern. “I don’t know, complacency maybe? I don’t know if there’s any defined age group, either.” (There isn’t.)

“It could be a great Segway into a campaign on our speeding in interior streets,” Beadle said.

One such campaign may be in the works. Petito is part of a newly formed committee spearheaded by Michael Chiumento, the Palm Coast attorney, that seeks to develop a campaign aimed at texting and driving. It’s still in its earliest stages, Petito said, but the campaign may end up drafting the Community Problem Solvers, the high school student-led initiative that takes on community projects with a public benefit.

“When you go down the road and you look at drivers,” Petito said, “it’s distracted drivers, they’re texting,  putting on their make-up, making their coffee, and that has a lot to do with it. Everybody’s got an iPad and an iphone now, I think that has a lot to do with it too.”

“As far as on-going traffic-safety campaigns, the agency continues to participate in statewide seatbelt, speed, and DUI enforcement campaigns throughout the year,” Bob Weber, a spokesman for the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, said. “As you know, the agency was recently awarded $100,000 in FDOT grant for training of deputies, public education and traffic enforcement which is focused on reducing the number of DUI related incidents occurring in the county.” FDOT is the Florida Department of Transportation. “The agency also conducts countywide and on a weekly basis, Selective Traffic Enforcement Programs (STEP) in response to citizen complaints dealing with traffic related matter such as stop sign/red light running or speeding.”

Flagler County Fatal Crashes, 2014

Main Location
Jan. 1711:55 p.m.Belle Terre ParkwayCar-Passenger
Jan. 259:25 a.m.Old Kings RoadCar-Driver
Jan. 301 p.m.Conservatory DriveCar-Driver, Non-Traffic Fatality
Feb. 83:25 p.m.Whiteview ParkwayCar-Driver
Feb. 129:38 a.m.Belle Terre ParkwayCar-Driver
Feb. 149:45 p.m.I-95Pedestrian (suicide)
Feb. 202:25 p.m.I-95Motorcycle
Feb. 2710:50 a.m.Central AvenueCar-Driver
March 66:47 a.m.U.S. 1Motorcycle
March 163:30 a.m.I-95Car-Driver
March 1511:04 a.m.State Road A1AMotorcycle
March 2310:00 p.m.County Road 2007Car-Driver
April 291:50 a.m.Palm Coast ParkwayCar-Driver
May 1011:45 p.m.State Road A1ACar-Driver
May 175:46 p.m.U.S. 1Car-Driver
May 2112:01 p.m.N. Oceanshore Blvd.Car-Driver
May 312:27 p.m.I-95Car-Driver and Car-Passenger
June 56:30 a.m.103 East Moody Blvd.Car-Driver Non-Traffic Fatality
July 1310:11 a.m.Belle Terre ParkwayMotorcycle
July 229:02 p.m.State Road A1ABicycle
September 142:25 a.m.I-95Car-Driver
October 49:34 a.m.Pelicer CreekAirplane-Pilot
October 1511:40 a.m.U.S. 1Motorcycle
October 189:40 p.m.State Road 100Car-Driver
October 206:18 p.m.State Road 100Car-2Passengers
November 46:13 a.m.State Road 11Motorcycle
November 1812:41 p.m.U.S. 1 Car-Driver
December 167:44 p.m.Pamela ParkwayCar-Driver Non Traffic Fatality
Source: Florida Highway Patrol.
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19 Responses for “28 Killed on Flagler Roads Last Year, Most Since 2008; Total Crashes 2nd-Highest Ever”

  1. Sam says:

    Maybe I can shed some light on WHY there is so many accidents and the death rate is EXTREMELY high here in Flagler County. Perhaps the Red Light camera’s ARE NOT working and we need more TRAFFIC POLICE giving out tickets to all the IDIOTS who feel they OWN the roads and DO NOT have to follow the speed limits or COMMON SENSE driving .

    • Anonymous says:

      They were not at intersections, read more, defensive driving is the key, 99 percent of all accidents are preventable, if we drive defensive.

    • CarleyB says:

      I totally agree Sam !

    • sw says:

      Agree Sam every day I encounter this and they are old, young, male, female, all races and don’t care. Inconsiderate, impatient, terrible drivers who think they are more important. Being passed in no passing zones on neighborhood streets where the limit is 25-30 is my favorite.

  2. Teddy says:

    Flagler County roadways were designed for rural or suburban traffic loads in mind. While in fact the traffic has increased to almost urban levels on many of our roads. Drivers you won’t or cant adapt and poor design will increase the number and severity of these accidents. Additionally, old people from the north and indigenous yahoos both amplify the problem.

  3. annomymous says:

    Sorry Sam , I think its been people speeding trying to beat next red light, they had then rigged at the height of their cam scam so you got stuck at each and every light on Palm Coast Parkway and Belle Terre,I even saw cop speeding on both roads cause doing the speed limit got you stuck but doing 55 got you through them, I had a Jeep Cherokee that got like 10 miles to the gallon , I was doing the 55 myself to get through them some were 5 minutes long that eats up a lot of gas getting stuck at each light, and they rigged them purposely to make people get fed up and try to beat their shorter yellow light times and get the ticket, That is exactly why we had more accidents, they not only abused the system by installing way too many of the lights , but rigged the lights as well and that is criminal!!

  4. meme says:

    I don’t believe for a second that this has to do with red light cameras!!!!!!! This has to do with people violating the right of way!!!!! The people who mosey out right in front of cars who are doing the actual speed limit and then cause the person with the right of way to slam on their brakes. This is done at stop signs as well as people making right on reds right in front of oncoming traffic……….it also has to do with people too busy on thier phones who slow down all of the sudden out of nowhere or rear-end someone because they’re not paying attention.

  5. Ken Dodge says:

    Exceeding posted speed limits, following too close, not burning headlights in low light conditions, failing to signal BEFORE turning or changing lane, running stop signs . . . typical of Flagler motorists.

  6. Nu-Yawkuh says:

    Anyone who lives in PC knows about the aggresive nature of the drivers here.
    You have the Dale Ernhardt students of driving (tailgaters), “the road is mine” mindset,
    the brake-check dudes…

    A lot of angry folks. Maybe yankees (especially the inner-city types) and southerners
    (rednecks) don’t make for a good mix.

    Palm Coast is not a friendly place – it’s too crowded.
    Too many people in too small an area. It was nice before it became a city.
    People used wave as you drove by. Now they stare…or just look away.

    My advice: drive defensively, and always allow extra time to your destination.
    And hang up your stupid cell phones and just drive.

    Pedestrians: wear reflective vests when strolling at night.

  7. Grf says:

    Truck area unsafe, road construction unsafe multiple
    OSHA violations lights set on unsafe transitions road construction
    On narrow paths just to give a few reasons not all of issues facing
    Our area!

  8. boomer says:

    it’s all the northeasterner’s who are the agressive drivers here, can’t stand those people at all.

  9. Jason Stryker says:

    Our ethically challanged sheriff….J. Manfre and his sidekick, Staley, were placed in office with the promise of addressing this issue. This was a campaign POINT for Manfre. He slammed Flemming because there were so many accidents in this county….Then Manfre took the traffic unit and he destroyed it…Great Job! Fewer traffic units watching out for our safety and all of the deputies in this county unmotivated to help.

  10. VSarmie says:

    It is very possible that weather condition and time of day may be the common denominator! Roads where those accident took place are very poorly lit! Poor streets lighting coupled with the poor visibility conditions are well known common driving hazards, specially in Palm Coast where population has grown.

  11. lini says:

    I NEVER see posted traffic cops any more. Never. Used to see them in median or side of road on 100 or on Belle Terre. Drivers just do whatever they want without consequence. I was almost rear-ended on Palm Coast Pkwy last Thursday by a kid not paying attention. I was stopped in traffic and could see him coming in rear view. He was looking down (probably at cell phone) and I just braced for impact. He missed me by inches. It could have been really bad. I don’t live in Palm Coast (thank God) and try to avoid going there if I possibly can.

  12. Sandra Reynolds says:

    I can’t believe that there are not more drivers on the road. I have never seen the traffic as bad as it has been in the past couple of months. With the construction on the parkway, the traffic is often backed up two lights or so. Just the other day the westbound traffic stopped in the middle of an intersection causing gridlock. There was a crash somewhere causing this back up. Gridlock is caused by ignorant, inconsiderate drivers. And there is no such thing as an “accident.” They are called crashes for a reason.

  13. Rick Gardner says:

    Listen up Flagler Co drivers, you could be driving in Broward or Miami-Dade. The drivers here are pikers compared to that part of the state.

  14. Heading North says:

    Yes, they are called “crashes” not Accidents. Statewide reports were changed years ago from “Traffic Accident Report” to “Traffic Crash Reports”! I retired from FHP after 25 years of service, with most of it in Flagler County, and I cannot count all the crashes I handled as a working Trooper!
    I have always said that “crashes” are a result of THREE things: 1) Driver error 2) mechanical malfunction or 3) acts of God. Trust me, I have seen VERY few acts of God!
    Disbanding the traffic unit of FCSO was a mistake, yes BUT 90% of serious crashes or injury crashes were turned over to FHP anyway. I enjoyed what I considered an exceptional working relationship with the Sheriff’s Department, and will consider them my friends forever. They are dedicated men and women who are overlooked and underpaid. Look at the salaries of the upper eschelon and then the working staff of deputies!
    Sad to say the least!
    I am no longer a resident of Flagler County because it was time for me to move back north to be closer to family as they (and I) grew older. I miss the friends I have there, but don’t miss the drama!
    As always I wish the citizens of Flagler County well.

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